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Is anyone else sick of staring at the sun?
by William Holt on 11/21/12 03:07:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

You know, it's funny. 

I have a passion for video game design, but lately it's like I've been disinclined to play any games because they're all like a series of books playing on one theme from long ago that simply sold very well. I'm thinking that the crew over at Extra Credits (see link) are on to something with their "Why are games' appeal restricted exclusively to fun?" episode. 

Game design nowadays seems less on keeping players engaged and more on keeping them entertained. That's all well and good until the player doesn't want to have fun. When the player wants to learn something, or expand their emotional horizons, or fall in love with a narrative. These A-list games aren't engaging, they're fun, and that's likely one of the many reasons why the gaming industry is the subject of as much scorn as it is.

We've lost the idea of games. We've embraced the idea of entertainment. So much so that our games-vs-entertainment dilemma has crossed over into manifestations in our present reality; Vancouver's riots over a game. Games recruiting for foreign military powers. Games that allow you to live the life of an elementary school murder.

These constructs have been stripped of so much meaning in their effort to entertain, in their effort to draw in their audiences and change their perception of the world. This stripped-down, entertainment-only perception is entirely without any larger meaning, positive or negative, and is therefore reduced to the essence of the act they are trying to allow the player to experience.

America's Army conveys a sense of unity through show of force to foreign powers. Call of Duty at first tried to convey the horrors of war, but then gave in to a near-future, all-hands-in deathmatch, where drones are called down as a reward for killing your opponent. God of War wasn't that bad in and of itself, but EA killing a goat and trussing it up as a sacrifice for the press conference? Despicable.

I long to return to a time where games narratives were crafted carefully, as a masterfully written book would be. Enough with this use-and-forget culture; it's time to create something with sustenance; something that can stand the trials of time and remain on its own of its own accord, something that we can measure our future attempts against. Something universal and awesome.


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Comments


tony oakden
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I've been thinking the same thing from a personal perspective. I've been in the industry a long time and have a few "epics" I've been designing in my head for 10+ years. But I never seem to get around to starting them and instead end up making relatively small casual and indie games. I'm also thinking it's time to take the plunge and commit to making something really substantial even if it takes many years to complete.

Alex Leighton
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It's true, I can't think of any truly "timeless" games that have been released recently. Games that people will remember 40 or 50 years from now. They're all just so forgettable.

Eric Schwarz
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Too bad that the idea of meaningful, lasting entertainment is completely contrary to making even medium-budget games. Why make something people can enjoy once and pay for once when you can make the same game with new graphics every single year and make more money each time? Why not fundamentally alter that "timeless" narrative with DLC pack after DLC pack, each based on a gimmick instead of any coherent artistic principle or idea?

I'm not saying one or the other is bad, but, well, news flash, triple-A games are built the way they are for a reason.

Adam Bishop
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And yet we've just seen Assassin's Creed 3 released, a game that falls prey to a bit too much navel-gazing with its narrative. Hideo Kojima's games certainly aspire to a level of narrative depth beyond yearly installments of cookie cutter games. David Cage's work on games like Heavy Rain and Beyond aspire to a deeper level of narrative meaning. Rockstar's work on game like Red Dead Redemption and the last few Grand Theft Autos also takes narrative seriously. There's Bioshock and presumably Bioshock Infinite. There's still plenty of space for AAA games that try to be meaningful and have lasting appeal, even if they don't get quite the buzz that the latest Call of Duty does.

Michael Stevens
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"Why make something people can enjoy once and pay for once when you can make the same game with new graphics every single year and make more money each time? "

In a literal sense, I think that would be an improvement. I want to buy the sort of game that has a non-focus-group-based reason for existing. There is currently no pressure or incentive to create something durable. Retail and Review mechanisms aren't currently wired to support long-term sales. It's an improving situation due to digital sales and (I think) finally hitting a graphics plateau where aesthetics can outmaneuver horsepower.

Nintendo actually has (or, had) a pretty good model for "archival quality" games, but they haven't really tried to use it on the 18+ crowd.

Michael Stevens
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By which I mean: I want Criterion games. I want games that can age and still make the grade without nostalgia.

Michael Josefsen
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I understand your point, but personally I'm 100% happy with games just being entertainment. I do care greatly about what sort of entertainment, though. Challenge is good, pavlovian exploitation is bad. I like to actually be aware of the games systems when I play it, rather than escaping into virtual worlds. I can't help but feel that deeper emotions and relationships with our games run counter to their very nature. It was really board games that got me interested in the first place, so I can't really relate to most people, who seem to be more about the whole "experience" part of the equation. Thats just a nice wrapper to me.

Josh Hines
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I believe if we move into the shade, we can see, all of the beauties and possibilities. There is a whole earth waiting to be discovered, but yet we stand in the same spot, looking at the same sun. Not moving because safety and security has been proven and provided by the sun, with the complete disregard to the creeping melanoma.

However, to play the devils advocate, there are times where people just want to pick up a game and have fun, i.e. Fifa, rather then to traverse through a story. I do believe that there needs to be a duality to the basic existence of fun and expression/experience in games. But if we strive to push the boundaries for a higher level of artistic expression so that the viewer(/player) can have a more substantive experience then maybe we won't have to stand in the same spot. Maybe we can look at the sun from a different angle.


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